Planning on enjoying a quiet dinner alone this evening? You may
be the only person at the table, but you're definitely not alone.
Inside your intestines are tens of millions of microscopic organisms — mostly
bacteria — that make up an ecosystem as varied as that of
any rainforest and as unique as your fingerprint. The role of gut
microflora in health and disease is the topic of this year's Joseph
J. Kinyoun Lecture, to be given by Stanford University microbiologist
and physician Dr. David A. Relman.
The lecture, "Human Endogenous Microbial Ecosystems: The Next Frontier," is
scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 27 at 2 p.m. in Lipsett Amphitheater,
Although microbial denizens of the gut and oral cavity are critical
to many bodily functions, including digestion, most of the features
of this vast ecosystem remain unexplored. Earlier this year, Relman
and his colleagues published "Diversity of the Human Intestinal
Microbial Flora," in Science. The product of a year-long
analysis, it was the first of several planned studies designed
to examine how microbial communities in the human gut vary in relation
to host diet, geography, disease and other factors. In samples
drawn from three volunteers, Relman and his colleagues detected
close to 400 never-before-described microbial species.
A native of Boston, Relman earned his S.B. degree from Massachusetts
Institute of Technology and received his M.D. degree, magna
cum laude, from Harvard Medical School in 1982. Following
postdoctoral clinical training at Massachusetts General Hospital
in internal medicine and in infectious diseases, he served as a
postdoctoral research fellow in microbiology at Stanford University
from 1986 until 1992. He joined the Stanford faculty in 1992 and
was appointed associate professor with tenure in 2001. He has been
a staff physician at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System since
1992 and was named chief, infectious diseases section, in 2002.
In addition to research on the composition and dynamics of human
gut microflora, Relman's scientific pursuits include investigations
into Bordetella pertussis (the cause of whooping cough)
and smallpox virus, as well as the development and application
of genomic methods for early diagnosis of systemic infectious diseases.
He is an author on 147 scientific publications.
Relman currently serves on the board of directors of the Infectious
Diseases Society of America (IDSA), and is co-chair of the National
Academy of Sciences' committee on advances in technology and the
prevention of their application to next generation biowarfare.
He was recently appointed to a 4-year term on the National Science
Advisory Board for Biosecurity.
Among Relman's honors are the Squibb Award from IDSA (2001) and
the Senior Scholar Award in Global Infectious Diseases from the
Ellison Medical Foundation (2002). He is a member of the American
Society for Clinical Investigation and was named fellow of the
American Academy of Microbiology in 2003.